“Uniquely expressive acts get transformed and elaborated into social rites, and through participation they accrue a breadth and depth of meaning which can only be produced in a communal setting. It is the primal process by which culture is created.”
– Larry Harvey
Burning Man co-founder and Chief Philosophic Officer Larry Harvey wrote and spoke publicly about Burning Man since its origins, both under his own name and in the guise of his anagrammatic alter ego Darryl Van Rhey.
He is the author of Burning Man’s 10 Principles as well as many landmark essays and speeches concerning the event and the culture. He also founded the Philosophical Center, in order to nurture the ideas and values unlocked at Burning Man, instill them in our culture, and share them with the wider world.
He wrote for and edited the community’s early print newsletters, Building Burning Man (1991-1999) and the original Burning Man Journal (2000-2007). More of his writings can be found in our Historical Publications archive and the (newfangled) Burning Man Journal.
In addition to the links below, you’ll find some of Larry’s classic long-form essays and speeches in the navigation bar on this page.
“I’ll believe in utopia when I meet my first perfect person, and this community is made up of 70,000 imperfect persons.”
“If all of your self worth and esteem is invested in how much you consume, how many likes you get, or other quantifiable measures, the desire to simply possess things trumps our ability or capability to make moral connections with people around us.”
“Well it seems to me, that all real communities grow out of a shared confrontation with survival. Communities are not produced by sentiment or mere goodwill. They grow out of a shared struggle. Our situation in the desert is an incubator for community.”
“I’ve learned never to expect people to be better than they are, but to always have faith that they can be more.”
“I don’t believe in supreme beings as religion does, but I think being is supreme—and that has become my spiritual attitude. I see creativity as a way to achieve a sense of intensified being, and therefore identity.”
“Community doesn’t mean that everyone’s kind, really, or that everyone has to love everybody else. But if you think that I’m just as real as you are, it’s possible to be charitable and decent and kind. And out of that can grow love, and out of that can grow trust.”
“At most festivals, there is social engineering that takes place—and it’s designed to increase consumption. The producers make their money by featuring headliners, targeting demographics, vending at scale, and through commercial sponsorships. We don’t do those things. What we’ve always done is form the context of society. And all of this is not in service of the bottom line, but is aimed at generating greater social interaction.”
“It seems to me that, given the problems we’re facing on every front—economical, environmental, political—what’s needed is a kind of ethical, cultural revolution.”
“I’ve always discouraged people calling me a visionary, because that’s one step away from saying that you’re head’s in the clouds and you don’t really know what you’re doing; that you just spout ideas.”
“I think the things that people seek can’t be purchased. The things that matter most in life have an unconditional value. You can’t buy them. You can’t buy a friend. You can’t buy a lover. You can buy the semblance of those things—and you’ll live to grieve over that.”
“Authentic culture is disappearing faster in this world than the tropical rain forests.”
Excerpts from Larry’s self-produced film, “Burning Man” (1991)
Larry interviewed on Charlie Rose, aired on March 19, 2014
Larry, Caveat and Stuart discuss Art, Money and the Renaissance at the 2016 Global Leadership Conference
Larry addresses the 2015 Global Leadership Conference
Larry presents at Design Indaba 2015
Profiles in the Dust tribute
Articles & Interviews
Interview with Larry about ritual, community and Burning Man — Burning Man archives, 1994
The Man Behind Burning Man — Time Magazine, 2000
Burning Man’s Founder Looks Ahead — Wired, 2005
Burning Man: A Conversation With the Founder — Commonwealth Club, 2011
Larry Harvey and JP Barlow on Burning Man and Tech Culture — Tech Crunch, 2018
Larry Harvey Obituary — New York Times, 2018